So, what's next?
I am wrapping up my two year commitment to Teach for America and I am so proud of myself, but let’s backtrack.
When I was a senior in college I was at a loss for what I wanted to do with my post-grad life. I remember feeling this need to do something “worthwhile” with my time. I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact on the world, while also being impressive. I knew my grades weren’t competitive enough to get hired right away at a company like Impossible Foods and I didn’t have enough industry experience to go work for the World Food Organization. So what was a 22 year old with limited industry experience and a food science degree supposed to do? A gap year was out of the question and applying for anything creative seemed frivolous and superficial. I got this degree to help people! That’s what I SHOULD be doing.
I just finished some time in therapy and the one of the main things I’ve taken away is that “should, could and would” are loaded words. They put a sense of obligation and pressure on us that we normally wouldn’t feel from words like “want.” I felt like I had do something positive with my new degree or else that time wouldn’t be worthwhile. My personal sense of self-worth had gotten so tied up in being “good” in the eyes of the world that I didn’t really know what being “good” meant to me.
Anyway, I received an email from TFA asking if I would be interested in an informational interview. I figured, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about something however, the person I met had a huge impact on my perspective of what it meant to be in TFA. I would get to move somewhere away from California, have a guaranteed “real” job, help people, and maybe choose a lasting career in teaching. What did I have to lose? The application process was pretty rigorous and I was not expecting to be accepted, especially after seeing how many people were applying. Then, on April 9, 2018 I got my acceptance email. I would be a 2018-2020 Corps Member. A few weeks later I found out I would be moving to New York City and teaching chemistry.
It’s funny how things end up working out. I did move to NYC, but I teach middle school special education, something I said I did not want to do, nor felt qualified to do. It hasn’t been easy to say the least, but it has been so rewarding.
Teach for America isn’t a fun service oriented gap year. It is a real job and an important one. These students are depending on you to care about them and teach them something and I have been forever changed, as cheesy as that sounds. My time in the corps forced me grow up. It has shown me the kind of person I am capable of being and want to continue being. I know I want to do something that helps others, but I also know that helping doesn’t always look like service.
As I reflect on the past two years, I am starting to let go of the previous expectations I had for myself. I kept telling myself that the reason I was unhappy teaching was because I wasn’t using my food science degree, but I have realized it was simply because I just didn’t want to do it. There doesn’t always have to be some deep meaning behind why we feel the way we do. Sometimes, we just feel. In my next job I want to pursue something creative, possibly in graphic design or product development. I want to volunteer with a weekend program called Edible Schoolyard that educates young kids about food and eating healthy in an urban environment. I might not look “smart” by choosing a creative path and that’s okay with me. At the end of the day, the only person that needs to live with my choices is me.